CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
"I worship Jesus - not a celebrity, political person, political party, philosophy, or spiritual leader -Only Jesus Christ." Christal Ann Rice Cooper Speaks!
Monday, December 24, 2018
#51 Backstory of the Poem "The Persistence of Music" by Anatoly Molotkov
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***This is the fifty-first
in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris
Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote
that specific poem. All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end
of this piece.
Below Title Photo: Anatoly Molotkov in November of 2018. Copyright permission granted by Anatoly Molotkov for this CRC Blog Post Only.
#51 Backstory of the Poem
Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov
Can you go through the step-by-step
process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in
your brain until final form?I don't usually start a poem with an intention, but allow
the intention to be found in the process. For me, a poem starts with
experimental stabs at something – language, meaning, story. For years, the
single-verse prototype sat on my hard drive waiting for an additional spark. The
notion of a sci-fi poem kept its attraction. It’s an unusual combination in my
As a lifelong fiction writer and
reader, I have strong reservations about “genre” writing – any genre –
including sci-fi. In my opinion, only very few authors typically classified in
this category have been able to arise to the level of serious literature (most
notably Ray Bradbury (Left in 1975) http://www.raybradbury.com/). With sci-fi in
particular, so much effort often has to be dedicated to world-building and plot
that both become goals of their own and develop with diminished regard for the work’s
emotional, ethical and intellectual objectives.
In short, this seemed a worthwhile
challenge. Not only the poem’s futuristic reality, but the notion of creative
responsibility it ponders, demanded more attention. At some point in 2015, I
gave it another try. (Right: Anatoly Molotkov in 2015. Copyright permission granted by Anatoly Molotkov for this CRC Blog Post Only)
Growing the poem from one verse to
its final twelve-verse form was about adding details that seemed moving and genuine
– or humorous in an unobtrusive way that may offset the tragic main theme. I
also ran the poem by my three writers’ groups. (Left: Anatoly Molotkov holding his poetry collection Application of Shadows where "Persistence of Memory" is included. October 2018. Copyright permission granted by Anatoly Molotkov for this CRC Blog Post Only)
Where were you when you started to
actually write the poem?And please
describe the place in great detail.I can't remember where the original prototype was written –
that was over a decade ago. The more recent work on fleshing out The
Persistence of Music occurred in my kitchen downstairs (Right)– it opens onto a street
corner and, at night, creates a sense of overlap between the warm, light
internal world and the dark universe outside. I write after midnight, when
everyone else is asleep.
What month and year did you start
writing this poem?I would place the prototype somewhere around 2005.
How many drafts of this poem did you
write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough
drafts with pen markings on it?)Probably 15-20. I haven't kept them. I realize many writers
are sentimental about their revision process and keep their early drafts. To
me, early versions are revised for good reasons and superseded by better ones.
I wouldn't want to share sub-par lines with the world or pollute my own mind or
my archives by keeping track of them.
I’ve made an exception with the
first draft quoted above because it’s so different from the final poem and I
happen to have it memorized (which reminds me that I had pondered this brief
snippet for years before writing the final version).
Were there any lines in any of your
rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?And can you share them with us?The
entire original draft is not in the final version. It went like this:
In the lobby of a space station, alien police
hang suspects by the toes. Cries
fill the air. An upside-down
tortured face asks for help. “I’m just
a visitor,” I reply. “I too
need help. I’ve brought
a mouthful of music, but no
one wants it.”
What do you want readers of this poem
to take from this poem?I’m uncomfortable imposing my interpretive preferences on
the readers. My hope is that the poem leaves enough room for each reader to
walk away with her or his own personal reaction.
Which part of the poem was the most
emotional of you to write and why?The ending is emotional to me, as endings tend to be – as a
writer, one wants the catharsis, the emotional weight around the last lines.
Anything you would like to add?Thank
you for these questions – it’s rewarding to stop and think about the creative
process and its relationship to time. In a way, the poem itself is a commentary
The Persistence of Music
Yesterday, blue rain fell on me. I
found my hair on the pillow: lovely beige clumps,
dry like distance.
I remember your hands running
through it. I’m on read-only access.
There is nothing unique about being
archived. Next upgrade may be my last. I recall
your final breath
drawn through the tube, the DNA
collector’s smile as I waited.
You are pure data now, immune to
time, as my memory fades. They say
the Outer Planets
are more hospitable to my kind, but
I’m loath to leave this place we shared.
Maybe I should sing again. But who
would listen? My survival stock drops daily. Tomorrow,
Your DNA reveals compassion skills,
something I have always valued.
I noticed you first in the
maintenance line, handing out plugins, your smile
patient and kind,
the way you paid attention to
everyone, even lower grade aliens.
You reminded me: there are still
songs to sing. Without you, I don't know how
to be me.
I lack self-confidence, I doubt my
uniqueness index, the very thing you used to like about me.
Is a song too small, cowardly? Can
music matter to those in pain and
Your DNA descends from homo sapiens
– how old-fashioned. To me,
you were breathtakingly beautiful,
no matter your origins. You wanted me to sing,
not for you,
but for myself and those who can
hear. You made my future possible,
you helped me even as your own
future was coming to an end. You’d mentioned a pending upgrade,
but I ignored you. My blindness
bites, chews at me. I’m knee deep in song.
I wish we could replay with full
audiovisual feedback, rewind. You were the all
and even this
doesn't say enough. You were the
only path, and you ended. I open myself to what
you lacked in me, to the way you
wanted me to be. One of the Outer Planets will be named
preserved in thought and harmony, so
others can fondly say you, not knowing it’s you.
I love you more since you were shut
down. You tick in me without winding. I know you
bit by bit.
I learn from your absence. My mouth
is dry, my vocal chords atrophied, yet I sing.